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NIDA Director, Dr. Nora D. Volkow

Nora D. Volkow, M.D., became Director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) at the National Institutes of Health in May 2003. NIDA supports most of the world’s research on the health aspects of drug abuse and addiction.

Dr. Volkow’s work has been instrumental in demonstrating that drug addiction is a disease of the human brain. As a research psychiatrist and scientist, Dr. Volkow pioneered the use of brain imaging to investigate the toxic effects and addictive properties of abusable drugs. Her studies have documented changes in the dopamine system affecting, among others, the functions of frontal brain regions involved with motivation, drive, and pleasure in addiction.  She has also made important contributions to the neurobiology of obesity, ADHD, and aging. Read more.

Published Papers

Position Papers

  • Opioid Abuse in Chronic Pain - Misconceptions and Mitigation Strategies (PubMed, Mar 2016)
  • Opioids in Pregnancy (PubMed, Jan 2016)
  • Brain Disease Model of Addiction: Why is it so Controversial? (PubMed, Aug 2015)
  • NOW vs LATER Brain Circuits: Implications for Obesity and Addiction (PubMed, Mar 2015)
  • Adverse Health Effects of Marijuana Use (PubMed, Jun 2014)
  • Abuse of Prescription Drugs and the Risk of Addiction (PubMed, Jun 2006)
  • Major Increases in Opioid Analgesic Abuse in the United States: Concerns and Strategies (PubMed, Feb 2006)


  • Effects of Cannabis Use on Human Behavior, Including Cognition, Motivation, and Psychosis: A Review (PubMed, Mar 2016)
  • The Brain on Drugs: From Reward to Addiction (PubMed, Aug 2015)
  • Addiction as a Systems Failure: Focus on Adolescence and Smoking (PubMed, Apr 2011)
  • Neurocircuitry of Addiction (PubMed, Jan 2010)
  • The Neural Basis of Addiction: A Pathology of Motivation and Choice  (PubMed, Aug 2005)
  • Drug Addiction and its Underlying Neurobiological Basis: Neuroimaging Evidence for the Involvement of the Frontal Cortex (PubMed, Oct 2002)


  • Functional Connectivity and Brain Activation: A Synergistic Approach (PubMed, Oct 2014)
  • Obesity and Addiction: Neurobiological Overlaps (PubMed, Jan 2013)
  • Motivation Deficit in ADHD is Associated with Dysfunction of the Dopamine Reward Pathway (PubMed, Nov 2011)
  • How Can Drug Addiction Help Us Understand Obesity? (PubMed, May 2005)
  • Association of Dopamine Transporter Reduction with Psychomotor Impairment in Methamphetamine Abusers (PubMed, Mar 2001)
  • Brain Dopamine and Obesity (PubMed, Feb 2001)
  • Addiction, A Disease of Compulsion and Drive: Involvement of the Orbitofrontal Cortex (PubMed, Mar 2000)
  • Decreased Striatal Dopaminergic Responsiveness in Detoxified Cocaine-dependent Subjects (PubMed, Apr1997)
  • Decreased Dopamine-D(2) Receptor Availability is Associated with Reduced Frontal Metabolism in Cocaine Abusers (PubMed, Jun 1993)
  • Graphical Analysis of Reversible Radioligand Binding from Time Activity Measurements Applied to [N-C-11-methyl]-(-)-cocaine PET Studies in Human Subjects (PubMed, Sep 1990)
Cover of Nature issue  on Addiction

Read about the latest advances in addiction research in Nature Outlook: Addiction, a special supplement co-sponsored by NIDA and NIAAA. View the entire supplement at: http://www.nature.com/nature/outlook/addiction/. For a commentary authored by NIDA Director Dr. Nora D. Volkow and NIAAA Director Dr. George F. Koob, go to http://www.nature.com/nature/outlook/addiction/
pdf/NIDA_NIH.pdf (PDF,108KB)

Cover of Lancet journal

The brain disease model of addiction is strongly supported by scientific evidence, according to a commentary - “Brain disease model of addiction: why is it so controversial?” , published in The Lancet Psychiatry by NIDA Director Dr. Nora Volkow and NIAAA Director Dr. George Koob.

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Dr. Nora Volkow: Video Highlights

NIDA Director, Dr. Nora D. Volkow Videos

  • APA TV, May 2016
    APA TV chats with Dr. Nora Volkow, the Director of NIDA to hear about her lecture on drug abuse and the opioid epidemic.
  • Kentucky Educational Television, May 2016
    One to One with Bill Goodman: Dr. Nora Volkow
  • TEDMED, January 2015
    Why do our brains get addicted?
  • The World Science Festival, May 2013
    Meet Pioneer in Science, Dr. Nora Volkow
  • Rockburn Presents, November 2012
    Dr. Nora Volkow
  • Brookhaven National Laboratory WBNL Video, October 2012
    Chemistry celebration: FDG: Contribution to Our Understanding of Addiction
  • CBS 60 Minutes, April 2012
    Hooked: Why Bad Habits Are Hard to Break 
  • Science Times, June 2011
    Dr. Nora Volkow

Interviews with NIDA Scientists

2011 Society for Neuroscience meeting

NIDA scientists and grantees bring brain science to life in these video interviews conducted at NIDA's 2011 Frontiers in Science mini convention at the Society for Neuroscience meeting in Washington, D.C.